In arithmetic, a quotient (from Latin: quotiens "how many times", pronounced //) is the quantity produced by the division of two numbers. The quotient has widespread use throughout mathematics, and is commonly referred to as a fraction or a ratio. For example, when dividing twenty (the dividend) by three (the divisor), the quotient is six and two thirds. In this sense, a quotient is the ratio of a dividend to its divisor.
The quotient is most frequently encountered as two numbers, or two variables, divided by a horizontal line. The words "dividend" and "divisor" refer to each individual part, while the word "quotient" refers to the whole.
Integer part definition
The quotient is also less commonly defined as the greatest whole number of times a divisor may be subtracted from a dividend without the remainder becoming negative. For example, the divisor 3 may be subtracted up to 6 times from the dividend 20 before the remainder becomes negative:
- 20 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 ≥ 0,
- 20 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 − 3 < 0.
In this sense, a quotient is the integer part of the ratio of two numbers.
Quotient of two integers
- A real number r is rational if, and only if, it can be expressed as a quotient of two integers with a nonzero denominator. A real number that is not rational is irrational.
Even more formally:
- if r is a real number, then r is rational ⇔ ∃ integers a and b such that and .
The existence of irrational numbers – numbers that are not a quotient of two integers – was first discovered in geometry in such things as the ratio of the diagonal of a square to the side.
More general quotients
Outside of arithmetic, many branches of mathematics have borrowed the word "quotient" to describe structures built by breaking larger structures into pieces. Given a set with an equivalence relation defined on it, a "quotient set" may be created which contains those equivalence classes as elements. A quotient group may be formed by breaking a group into a number of similar cosets, while a quotient space may be formed in a similar process by breaking a vector space into a number of similar linear subspaces.